Ivy provides huge benefits for fauna

Last month turned out to be a truly golden October, with wonderfully warm and sunny days interspersed with occasional torrential rainfall.

At this time of year, the arable fields do not have any fast-growing crops on them to utilise rainfall which percolates very quickly through the saturated soil to the land, draining into the ditches and tributary streams of the River Stour.

The river levels can rise at an alarming rate and it is very difficult to respond to such events during the grazing season.

The cattle were taken off King’s Marsh as a precaution as there is almost no high ground there, should flooding occur.

Fortunately, there was still plenty of grass available elsewhere for the cattle in spite of high river levels spilling out on to the floodplain for a short while.

Now that the cattle have been removed from the Sudbury Common Lands for the winter, there is no issue with high water levels as it is the natural function of the floodplain to hold excess water until the river can drain it away.

As a result of the record breaking unseasonal weather, butterflies and dragonflies continued to fly almost every day as if it were still late summer.

The last newsletter highlighted how important good autumn weather is to invertebrates.

At this time of year, however, sources of nectar decline as flowers complete their life-cycle ahead of the winter and this is where ivy comes into its own.

Unfortunately, there can be few plants that are so misguidedly despised and yet are so very important for wildlife.

It is not uncommon to see “vandalised” ivy where stems climbing trees have been cut through in the completely misguided notion of saving the tree and, as a consequence, destroying a whole ecosystem.

Ivy is part of our native flora and, as such, provides enormous benefits for our fauna. Ivy flowers throughout October, thus providing an invaluable source of nectar for late flying butterflies and bees.

Once the weather finally deteriorates as winter approaches, many of these butterflies and other insects will hibernate, securely hidden and protected from the elements by the ivy.

The newly-formed ivy berries will also provide a feast for berry-eating birds at a time when other food is scarce as well as sheltering them from adverse weather.

Come spring, ivy provides an ideal habitat for nesting birds so it really is a very important component of our countryside and should be viewed in a considerably more enlightened way.